Cabot Oil and Gas Charged With Environmental Crimes

Image: MATT ROURKE/AP

On Monday, Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. was charged with environmental crimes by the Pennsylvania attorney general following a grand jury investigation that found the company failed to fix faulty gas wells in its operations along the Marcellus Shale.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that Cabot will face charges for methane pollution that was found to have seeped from poorly constructed natural gas wells into the local water supply in Dimock, a rural township in northeastern Pennsylvania.

  • The contamination in Dimock has been the subject of investigations by state and federal environmental and health agencies, civil lawsuits, the documentary “Gasland,” several books and advocacy by celebrities.

Why This Matters: As the Washington Post explained, Cabot has long insisted the gas in Dimock’s aquifer is naturally occurring, saying its pre-drill testing of thousands of private water wells in the area show a high percentage with methane. The grand jury asserted that Cabot’s initial sampling of wells and groundwater did not include tests for methane. Additionally, when the film Gasland was released Cabot was one of many companies that vehemently pushed back on the film on the basis that methane was indeed naturally occurring. 

Cabot’s Legal Woes: According to the Washington Post, Dimock became a battleground for pro- and anti-drilling forces after state regulators found that Cabot — one of the biggest drillers in the vast Marcellus Shale gas field — had contaminated 18 residential wells with methane. Homeowners then sued, accusing the company of polluting their water with toxic chemicals and methane.

  • Last week, AG Shapiro’s office announced a deal with Range Resources Corp., Pennsylvania’s most active shale gas driller, to plead no contest to environmental crimes over its handling of contamination at a pair of well sites.
  • Those charges were the first to come out of a two-year grand jury investigation into Pennsylvania’s huge Marcellus Shale gas industry.
  • Hoever, unlike Range, Shapiro said, Cabot “continues to abdicate their responsibility.”

The Charge: The grand jury wrote in their report that,

We find that, over a period of many years, and despite mounting evidence, Cabot Oil & Gas failed to acknowledge and correct conduct that polluted Pennsylvania water through stray gas migration.”

They also cited Cabot’s “long-term indifference to the damage it caused to the environment and citizens of Susquehanna County.”

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